Day 5: a stone not for turning, cricket and Belloc whistles

2015-01-18 12.09.30A new year and our third site for the stone. We arrive at the Northwood planting fields to find walkers’ gates in the deer fence (from Santa?) and a ‘hut circle’ on a rise 300 metres north-east of our last site – the Ranger Team have been very busy behind the scenes for today’s public event. A main street separated catering tent and the canopied sculpture and planting tents; replete with festival mud as the day progressed, in the area nearest the hot drinks counter.

Embracing the unforeseen means looking forward to seeing which way up the stone was, on arrival. Remaining on its same side, today’s sculptors have deepened the areas between the forms and one person even commented that it was starting to resemble some of the finished works! We have a long way to go, but certainly the masses visible now will set some of the underlying rhythms in the final block. You are all warming to the quirkiness of the artistic process which cannot yet tell what will emerge. Uncertainty fills the ego with fear, as it likes to control reality. But if things were certain, there could be no creativity.

Slindon’s historic connection to cricket was mentioned; a wondering whether that might creep into the stone? I pondered, declaring it unlikely as there was no wider connection, however tenuous, to Northwood. It might be different should there have been some evocative yarn of the game being played by some woodland clearance gang in times past, but at present it would seem a contrivance. A good question, though.

I did precious little sculpting today, as three mallets were in demand consistently, with lots of keen younger carvers in evidence, learning how to create small explosions – resulting in a stone chip – with the minimum effort. I wonder what they will all be doing in 20 years time?

With all trees planted, we left the site via minibus parked on the track to Gumber, walking over a sea of spiky young ash trees beyond the Northwood deer fencing, relentlessly browsed by deer but still making progress. In Eleanor Jebb’s testimony to her father Hilaire Belloc, she recollects how he made them fresh ash whistles whilst at Courtfield Farm; something he had learnt as a boy in Slindon:

With some secret grasp he worked off the young rind from spring saplings some 3/4 inch thick and 6-8 inches long, having shaped the mouthpiece first at the wider end and cut out the notches for the notes at intervals of about 1/2 inch. This took a long time to execute, so great was our impatience to start making piercing and intolerable noises! I wonder if there is any man or boy left in Sussex who can still make these local whistles in season?

That was written in 1956 so we can forgive gender discrimination. A small prize for the first whistle received – please pass this post on to anyone you think might be a candidate.

The next public event is on 18th February!

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